50/50 or Heads Up Play
In 50/50 or Heads Up contests, you should aim to construct a lineup that has a higher floor, rather than one with a higher ceiling. If you're in a 50/50 contest, the top half of all entries finishes in the money, meaning you don't have to pick a high-ceiling lineup that shoots for the moon. The following lineups are built with the players I need, regardless of their price tag, and include my rationale for selecting each player.
Philip Rivers, SD, $8000 – The safest play this weekend is probably Peyton Manning, but with a price sticker of $11,500 I don’t see a ton of value. With Rivers, I can see him having to throw for close to 300 yards or more with the possibility of garbage time production. Keenan Allen looks the part of a number one wide receiver, and Danny Woodhead has been an effective pass-catching option out of the backfield. While I realize what happened during their first matchup in Denver, Ryan Mathews isn’t 100 percent and Manning should have a better game.
LeGarrette Blount, NE, $5600 – I never thought I’d be at the point of recommending Blount this season, at any time. Yet here I am, talking about the cast-off from Tampa Bay. Blount has clearly taken over as the lead rusher out of the New England backfield, and has two rushing touchdowns in each of his past two games. That shows that not only is he used at the goal line, but with 40 carries over the last two games, he’s going to get a good share of touches. My only concern here is that a fumble could be the path straight to the bench. Still, he’s a whopping $4400 less than Marshawn Lynch and would easily pay off his value with 80 rushing yards and a touchdown this weekend.
Donald Brown, IND, $6600 – Brown is another cheaply priced running back who has a decent matchup, and should be the lead back for the Colts. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton came out Thursday and said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Trent Richardson, but I’m not sure I totally believe that. Brown has easily been the more effective running back this season with a 5.3 yards per carry mark. He’s a good pass-catcher, and should add a few points in this .5 PPR format. Brown reminds me a little of Knowshon Moreno as far as his skill set, but he can be obtained for $1900 cheaper this week.
Demaryius Thomas, DEN, $8800 – I think Thomas has the most upside of any player when looking at all of the matchups. Fortunately, this week I saved at quarterback and running back, allowing me to spend money from here on out. The weather calls for no wind and shouldn’t be too cold, making the conditions in Denver ideal for the passing game. The Broncos will run at least a couple of wide receiver screens his way, and he’s shown the ability to turn those into long touchdowns.
T.Y. Hilton, IND, $7500 – I admit, in neither lineup spot last week did I mention Hilton. I thought the larger sample size of Weeks 12-16 (zero touchdowns, an average of 44.1 receiving yards per game) should be taken into consideration over Week 17’s 11-catch, 155-yard effort. Hilton now has 33 targets over the last two weeks, and I’m not overly concerned about Aqib Talib slowing him down. Luck should give him double-digit targets, and there’s a good chance at a 100-yard performance. Look for everyone to take Hilton this week though, so I’d fade him in tournament/GPP formats.
Julian Edelman, NE, $7200 – I’ll admit, I’m a little concerned taking so many players in the same game. However, this matchup has the second-highest over/under total according to Vegas, which makes me feel better about the situation. Edelman has been remarkably consistent the last six weeks, and has received at least 11 targets in all but one of those games (nine targets in that other game). Edelman has scored at least 11 points in each of those six games, and has performances of 27.5 and 26.4 points mixed in there.
Greg Olsen, CAR, $5700 – It seems that outside of Julius Thomas, all of the tight ends have tough matchups this week. I get the feeling that either Olsen or Vernon Davis has a big role, in what should be the game featuring the strongest defensive play. I can’t fit Thomas into the lineup and stay under the salary cap, so I’ll turn to Olsen rather than either of the San Diego tight ends. Olsen has a solid rapport with Cam Newton and has received anywhere from 7-12 targets over his last seven games. He has three touchdowns during that span, and recorded at least four catches in every one of those contests.
Nick Novak, SD, $5200 – A cheap option who has been very accurate, kicking in arguably the best environment.
New Orleans Defense, $5000 – My options here were the Saints, Colts or the Chargers given the cap restraints, as Seattle was too pricey at $6500. Given my three choices, I thought that under Rob Ryan, the Saints were the strongest unit.
For tournament lineups, you have to look at upside, and use some “outside-the-box” picks if you want to cash in. Remember, I probably wouldn’t use this lineup completely, as there is a lower floor here with a lot of players. A mix of studs with a few of the cheaper options listed below could net you the top overall prize.
Drew Brees, NO, $9600 – I’m so ready to get slammed in the comments for bringing Brees up, especially at his price tag. However, I love him this week in tournament formats. I can’t see his ownership being anything over 10 percent and I’d even guess he’d be below five percent for some contests, making him the ultimate pot odds play. Backing Brees is taking a top-five quarterback in the league that is capable of putting up a great fantasy game against anyone. I think the whole “look what Seattle did to them a few weeks back” is totally getting overplayed. I’d even argue the opposite, implying that Sean Payton and Brees went back to the drawing board, and will figure out what went wrong in that game. Finally, if you think I’m really nuts here, take your life savings and head to Vegas immediately. I was able to find a prop putting Brees’ passing yards at 264.5, so go and take the under if this is so crazy.
Darren Sproles, NO, $4900 – The price here is really suppressed since Sproles has done little lately. If Brees is going to have a good game, I’d guess Sproles will be a big reason why. Most of Sproles’ work comes as swing passes out of the backfield, which are really just extended handoffs. With Seattle trying to get pressure up the middle, look for Sproles to possibly break a long one.
Danny Woodhead, SD, $6400 – I wonder how badly Ryan Mathews is really hurt, and if he’ll make it through the entire game. The best scenario for Woodhead is Mathews being limited in some capacity and the Broncos getting ahead in the game. Woodhead has been one of the most effective pass-catching backs this season, having collected six receiving touchdowns.
Wes Welker, DEN, $7800 – Given the time he’s missed with a concussion and the hefty price tag, I can’t see too many people trusting Welker this week. He’s only $1000 cheaper than Demaryius Thomas and $600 cheaper than Eric Decker, the two players I think people will consider before Welker. Gamble here that this is the same player who scored eight touchdowns over the first six games this season.
Danny Amendola, NE, $6800 – Amendola may be a reach of a play considering he’s a bit banged up, but he’s also had two weeks to heal. I think that in addition to the injury, owners will shy away when they see his production over the last two games. However, you must keep in mind that the second of those matchups was against the Bills, where the Patriots were able to run the ball at will, giving Tom Brady no reason to throw. If Andrew Luck can put up some points as he did last week, Brady will be forced to put the ball in the air as well.
Doug Baldwin, SEA, $4900 – It seems that every week you would love to have Baldwin or Golden Tate in your lineup, you just never know which one. Just like the first time around, Tate should see a lot of Keenan Lewis this week. If history repeats itself, Baldwin will once again have the much better fantasy game as a result.
Jimmy Graham, NO, $7500 – If you’re going to play Brees in this format, it’s a must to pair him up with Graham. I don’t think I have to go into too much depth with this pick, and remember he had the lone touchdown the first time they played.
Phil Dawson, SF, $5600/Graham Gano, CAR, $5000 – The weather shouldn’t be an issue in this game, and I get a “bend but don’t break” feeling from both defenses. I hate hedging with both here, but I think one of these guys sees four field goal attempts.
New England Defense, $5500 – The obvious pick this week without taking money into consideration is the Seahawks. However, New England is at home and just had a monster game against Baltimore a few weeks ago. Andrew Luck had three picks last week, and Belichick and company have had two weeks to prepare.